Wallace, Alfred Russel; The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utan, and the Bird of Paradise. A Narrative of Travel, with Studies of Man and Nature. In Two Volumes. 1st edition. 1869

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Wallace, Alfred Russel; The Malay Archipelago: The Land of the Orang-utan, and the Bird of Paradise. A Narrative of Travel, with Studies of Man and Nature. In Two Volumes. 1st edition. MacMillan and Co., London, 1869.

Large octavo, vol. 1, pp. xxiii, 478, 52 pages ads, 27 plates, 5 maps including folding map of Wallace’s route. Vol. 2, pp. 524,  24 plates, 4 maps.

The set is complete and in the original publisher’s green cloth with gilt cover and spine vignettes and spine titles. The gilt is sharp and bright, the bindings are exceptionally clean and tight with only minor corner bumping on boards. The brown end sheets are very clean, the text, plates and maps are clean and bright with original owner’s faint small stamp on verso of title pages. A near fine set.

Alfred Russel Wallace (1823-1913) was a noted English naturalist, explorer, evolutionist, geographer, anthropologist nd one of the 19th century’s leading experts on the geographical distribution of animal species.  Most scholars consider the the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution and natural selection. Wallace is best known for independently conceiving the theory of evolution through natural selection; his paper on the subject was jointly published with some of Charles Darwin's writings in 1858. His pioneering work on what would become evolutionary biogeography led to his being recognized as that subject’s ‘father’.
Along with his colleague Charles Darwin, Wallace and Darwin together proposed the theory of evolution by natural selection and their numerous publications laid the foundations of modern evolutionary biology.
Wallace dedicates his work “The Malay Archipelago” to Darwin ‘as a token of personal esteem and friendship…also to express my deep admiration for his genius and his works’.
His book “Malay Archipelago” is considered one of the most celebrated travel works of the 29th century and remains in print.
Wallace began his travels through the Malay Archipelago (present day Malaysia and Indonesia) in 1854 and over eight years collected over 120,000 specimens with 5000 species being new to western science.
His observations led to a recognition of of a distribution of animals around the archipelago and divided therein into two parts. The line of separation became known as Wallace’s Line and separated the animal life of the Australian region from that of Asia.
All of his thoughts and observations appear in this two volume work. His vivid descriptions of the geography, plant and animal life as well as encounters with the local inhabitants led to the works immediate success and recognition. It is also within this work that Wallace came to recognize how species evolved and changed to survive and thus passed their advantageous characteristics on  to their offspring. It was these thoughts that he shared with Charles Darwin.